Funeral director says restrictions on gatherings and travel took a toll

Ron Lashway of Douglass Funeral Service

Ron Lashway is the funeral director at Douglass Funeral Service in Amherst, Massachusetts. His day-to-day life involves coordinating funeral services, securing venues and musicians for funerals, completing legal paperwork, collaborating with doctors and families, removing people from their place of death, and helping people choose how to lay their loved ones to rest. Lashway said it is an honor to work with families to help them through the grieving process. Given how many people have died during the pandemic, I was interested to see how someone in his line of work experienced the last few years. 

BR: How has the pandemic affected your job or you personally?

RL: People died and we had to be careful about gathering to [lay them to rest]. There was a ten-person limit for gatherings in Massachusetts in 2020. It was hard for families to travel to funerals due to travel bans. Nursing homes were closed. People communicated through plexiglass. Everyone in the industry was affected by problems with transporting human remains and more chose cremation [so they could have memorials later down the line].

BR: How did your job or life change in the pandemic? 

RL: We use universal precautions but we needed to be even more attentive to those precautions. Some facilities had even stronger restrictions depending on the institution, sometimes not letting family members come in at all. Sixty people died of COVID-19 [that were laid to rest at Douglass Funeral Service]. 

BR: What has been hard for you in the pandemic? 

RL: Being a family business was challenging. We couldn’t close our doors [to prevent exposure] so that was a risk. Also, people in my family died of COVID.  

BR: What things are you looking forward to “going back to normal”? Is there anything you want to keep from the pandemic?

RL: I miss being able to see people without a mask, shaking hands. I think using more computers and electronic paperwork is something we will keep because it makes life more convenient.  

BR: How have you grown or changed during this time? 

RL: I appreciate my family and friend connections so much.

BR: Has your mental or physical health improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse during the pandemic? How so? 

RL: It’s gotten a little worse: too much TV on the couch! 

BR: What do you love about your job/life? What are you grateful for? 

RL: I’m grateful for my family. Our funeral service has been in Amherst for over 100 years. Seventy percent of the people who come in the door we know. I enjoy helping people, sitting with them, talking, and listening. 

BR: How do you destress or take care of yourself? 

RL: In the summer, I play golf, spend time outside, hang out with family, and mow the lawn. I love attending outdoor parties with friends.

BR: How did you get into this business?

RL: It’s a family business. My father worked here too.  

BR: Is there a good memory from your job that you will always remember?RL: Too many to count. I had one today.